Oldtown Shale Barren

One of Maryland's best and largest example of shale barren.

Shale barrens represent a unique combination of geology, soil, topography, and climate. These communities exist only on south-facing steep, shale slopes, shed rain quickly, and have thin soils.  Because of this combination of factors, shale barrens have desert-like conditions, and are habitat for the unique, endemic species that have adapted to live within them.

Visiting the Preserve
This preserve is only open to scientific research with prior permission from The Nature Conservancy, because of the fragility of the shale barrens.  Thank you for understanding and help in protecting this important part of Maryland's natural heritage.

Western Maryland

Why the Conservancy Selected This Site
Shale barrens are an unusual natural community that can be found only in western Maryland, parts of West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.  Some of the species that exist within these shale barren communities are endemic (they can only be found in this particular natural community), and thus protecting these shale barren communities becomes a priority in protecting Maryland's, and the planet's, natural legacy.

What the Conservancy Has Done/Is Doing Here
Protected by The Nature Conservancy since 1988, Oldtown Shale Barren's 16 acres continue to be areas for research and monitoring, and the Conservancy acts as a steward to ensure that the site maintains its ecological viability.


  • Nationally-endangered evening primrose, shale ragwort, and Kate's mountain clover.  State-rare species include the largest colony of three-flowered melic grass in Maryland.


  • Five-lined skinks, wood turtles, copperheads.
  • Pine and prairie warblers, white-eyed vireos, and Carolina wrens.



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